April 13th was a exciting day in the life of Mabel Cluer for it was on that day 100 years ago that she was born; born with a spinal disability which could have jeopardised her future. It did prevent Mabel from going to school as a young child, but it certainly did not inhibit her pursuit of knowledge and her amazing zest for life. On the contrary, being taught at home by her parents with a tutor for art and music was in many ways an advantage, because they all instilled in her love of learning which is still with her today as she enters her 101st year. Her parents encouraged her interest in language and etymology, she always had a dictionary at her side to look up words and their meanings, though sadly this is an interest she can no longer pursue since losing her sight through glaucoma in 2004.
When Mabel was eighteen she was able to go to Manchester School of Art, where she studied until she was twenty-two. Evidence of her artistic prowess can be seen in the many paintings which adorn the walls of her home and in the uniquely decorated furniture shich she has painted in her own individual style.
Mabel's early memories included some of the First World War, when she remembers seeing wounded soldiers with amputated limbs and other injuries walking on crutches, but she saw it all through a child's eye and it meant little to her at the time. However, as she grew older and the world was once more engulfed in war, she began to realise how little politicians did to prevent the bombing, killing and maiming of civilians. No-one was told the dreadful reality of war and howconflict could have been avoided. Mabel feels strongly that more should be done to prevent despots coming to power; she believes that the United Nations Organisation should make a study of human psychology, starting with people's pride, conceit and abuse of power. All peoples should be free and no one dictator or nation should have power over others. She is sure that there is too much competition when the emphasis should be on cooperation and help for those who need it all over the world.
Mabel spoke about her father whose parents were worried when he became a vegetarian at quite a young age. They thought his health would deteriorate if he did not eat meat, but in fact it improved and he never looked back. Thus his family, including Mabel became vegetarians and Mabel and her family are vegan. Mabel lived with her parents during the Second World War; she worked in an office, doing fire watching at weekends, when she learnt to use a stirrup pump!
In 1946 Mabel married Alan Cluer, moving to Elm Walk, Raynes Park, where she still lives with Edwin, her son, who is a committed, active member of Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND. Mabel's daughter Dilys lives in Scarborough and is a Green Party Councillor.
Mabel was for some years Secretary of the Food and Cooking Section of the Vegetarian Society. She gave regular cookery demonstrations at exhibitions, including in Wimbledon Community Centre, as well as helping her husband in his Health Food shop in Wimbledon Village.
Mabel's reverence for life and her belief that all killing is wrong stems from her vegetarian philosophy. It also explains her lifelong commitment to peace, though she did not become involved in CND until Edwin and Dilys joined the movement against cruise missiles in the 1980s. She is strongly opposed to violence as a way of dealing with disputes; the conflict in Libya should be sorted out through mediation, stopping the fighting and starting talking, rather than through bombing which must result in more killings.
Mabel's vision for the future is to see the abolition of Trident and all nuclear weapons, getting rid of war, working together on climate change and making the world a better place for all. I came away from this interview thinking that the world would indeed be a far better place if we had a few more - perhaps a few million more - Mabel Cluers in it.
An important feature of Mabel's 100th birthday celebrations was her participation in the weekly Vigil for Peace on 15th April.